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Video Game / Body Harvest

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The game that set the ground for Grand Theft Auto

Station Omega: Earth Orbit: 2016. The Earth lies in ruins. Over the past 100 years a vast alien invasion has harvested mankind to the brink of extinction. High above the dead planet, the last survivors hatch a desperate plan to halt the invasion at key points in the Earth's past. A prototype time travel device is ready. It's crew, a team of genetically enhanced super soldiers, is being prepared. But time has run out. The aliens have returned. And they're hungry...
Opening crawl

Body Harvest is a proto-sandbox game by DMA Design (now Rockstar North) released for the Nintendo 64 in 1998. It is a spiritual predecessor to the Grand Theft Auto series.

The plot goes as follows: An insectoid alien race has harvested humanity over a period of 100 years starting in 1916, using shields to prevent anyone from leaving or entering the harvested country. The story begins when the aliens try to wipe out the last humans survivors on the space station Omega in the year of 2016. The player character, Adam Drake, escapes but not before being wounded by one of the boarding alien. He manages to get into the Alpha 1 and is transported to 1916's Greece, where the game starts.

It is quite notable for introducing many of the elements now used in most 3D wide open sandboxes. It is possible to explore the environment at will and do the objectives in non-linear orders. Many vehicles (planes, boats, cars) can be used to explore the land and complete the missions. It isn't quite a sandbox however: the interaction with the environment and NPCS is limited, there are no real side-missions and most of the landscape is unavailable if you don't progress in the plot. Rockstar would later take the ideas introduced here and refine them in Grand Theft Auto III. The rest is history.

This game has examples of the following tropes:

  • Alternate History: The game starts out as this. The aliens attack in 1916 in the middle of World War I, and then slowly annihilate mankind by returning once every 25 years to consume entire countries.
  • Bag of Spilling: You lose most of your weapons and items when entering a new time period.
  • Boss Arena Recovery
  • Brain in a Jar: The Big Bad is the Alien Hivemind, a giant brain floating in a jar deep inside the Alien Comet.
  • Bug War: The Bugs, which are of the To Serve Man variant. Since due to time travel, you're fighting with them over a hundred year period, every new generation of the bugs features new enemy units.
  • But What About the Astronauts?: The last humans in 2016 are on a space station orbiting Earth.
  • Cool Shades: The Goliath bugs in level 2.
  • Colony Drop: With their invasion thwarted on four seperate occasions, the aliens decide to go for the Kill 'em All solution by trying to crash their artificial comet into Earth. Adam thwarts them once again by disabling the engines before they can do so.
  • Damsel in Distress: The Man in Black captures Daisy at some point in the fourth stage and takes her to the Alien Comet to lure Adam into a trap.
  • The Dragon: The Man in the Black Suit. Later revealed to be your Evil Twin. He becomes a Dragon Ascendant after you kill the Hive Mind.
  • Dummied Out: The game changed genre quite a lot during development: It was first going to be a RPG, then a pure shooter before ending up in its current form. The completely different gameplay between the indoor and outdoor sections and the strange mapping of the landscape are relics of the different concepts. This image gallery uploaded by a former DMA employee show there was going to be levels set in Hawaii, Japan and Antarctica.
  • Easy-Mode Mockery: Good luck getting access to level four if you've played through the previous three on Easy mode.
  • Event Flag: In the first section of Java, you are supposed to take a lift to get back to your starting point. After completing the primary objective, going to the lift will trigger a jelly alien on the local electricity generator even though it was fine a few seconds before.
  • Evil Evolves: The Bugs invade Earth four times over a hundred-year-period, facing the time-traveling human super soldier Adam Drake five times. In each new time period their forces have mutated to become more developed and stronger than in previous eras despite their failure to harvest enough human DNA.
  • Evil Twin: The Man in the Black Suit. Revealed to be literally your evil twin at the end of the game. The invading aliens sampled a droplet of Adam's blood that was shed during the game's intro sequence, and used it to create a perfect copy of him.
  • Fake Difficulty: Getting stuck in any type of liquid will kill you in a matter of seconds, no exceptions. This is despite Adam being shown to have competent swimming skills. That lake over there? It may as well be filled with acid.
  • Fate Worse than Death: The poor Russian train conductor during Siberia 1 who had been exposed to a dose of the zombie gas leak. He is seen leaning on the wall and sitting almost lifelessly on the floor of his home once you first meet him to get the train starting handle. Once Adam gets the train starting handle downstairs and tries to talk to the train conductor again before exiting, the conductor responds with nothing but groans. Instead of putting the poor man out of his misery (sadly, weapons could never be used indoors), Adam walks out of the conductor's home and leaves him to turn into one of the many zombies wandering throughout that area.
  • Final Boss: After Adam defeats the alien Hive Mind, his black-armored Evil Twin comes back and uses its power to turn into the final boss Tomegetherion.
  • Giant Flyer: Several of the alien insectoid enemies are giant flying monsters, though many can be taken down without too much trouble. The boss of the Siberia stage is the absolutely massive Beelzebub, lord of the flies.
  • Giant Enemy Crab: Your first major boss fight, no less.
  • The Greys: A small grey alien is found in Roswell, purportedly the one who had his Alien Autopsy videotaped; he gives you the key to his flying saucer. He's totally unrelated to the Insectoid Alien villains, btw.
  • Hive Mind: Revealed to be a Brain in a Jar during the game's final stages.
  • Implausible Deniability: Just before you kill the Hive Mind, it boasts that the aliens will return to consume the Earth's biosphere, and that they will kill you alongside themselves. At this point the aliens have been almost entirely destroyed, their plan to slam their comet into the Earth is twarthed, and are at the mercy of the humans. Just to drive the message home, Adam kills the brain by a mere kick to its container, which shatters it.
  • Invisible Wall: Subverted in that the walls are visible Deflector Shields, and one of the goals is to destroy the generator that powers them. Doing so creates a crater that serves as the boss arena, making the walls unnecessary at that point.
  • It's Personal with the Dragon: The Hivemind is just another stinking alien to Adam; its servant the Man in Black, who is a clone created from Adam's DNA, is his true enemy.
  • Lock and Load Montage: The intro movie shows Adam suiting up while the aliens are invading the space station.
  • Magical Native American: In the America level Adam meets a shaman at a native reservation who provides him with a Vision Quest that helps him to uncover the aliens' plans.
  • Mission Control: Daisy and the robot who gives you instruction on the map.
  • More Dakka: Particularly noticeable during major boss battles in Alpha 1 and the final stage.
  • No Endor Holocaust: Even with Adam's help, it's likely that thousands of people died during each stage of the alien invasion. Luckily he time travels to the next level before we have to deal with it.
  • One-Winged Angel: The Man In Black uses the Hive Mind's inherited power to transform into Tomegatherion at the end of the game.
  • Opening Scroll: The game starts with an opening scroll explaining the Alien Invasion and Time Travel themes.
  • Religious and Mythological Theme Naming: All the bosses are named after mythological monsters and demons: Leviathan, Cerberus, Moloch, Beelzebub, and Tomegatherion.
  • Regularly Scheduled Evil: When the aliens harvested humanity in the 20th century, they returned once every 25 years when their Comet homeworld is close enough.
  • Sequence Breaking:
    • There's a lovely part in one of the America stages where you're in a military base the aliens are trying to terraform. A fast-closing gate blocks your progress at one point, the intended solution being to get a can of nitro fuel and drive a jeep through the gate, the fuel speeding up the jeep just fast enough to make it, but if you can't quite pull that off, take a nimble car onto the high ledges and you'll be able to jump a gap at the edge of the level. You are then able to drive in a flat area the designers clearly intended to be inaccessible. Result: Skip almost the entire level and drive straight to the boss.
    • In the very first level, it's possible to get to the Alien Processor directly by using a motorcycle.
    • In Java stage 4, if you keeping running towards the fence, you can glitch through it to get inside a harbor base without having to Have the captain Going Down with the Ship to destroy the alien Barrier in a kamikaze attack.
  • Sand Worm: Some of the aliens in the America stage are giant worms who burrow through the ground throughout the desert level.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: Adam and Daisy travel back to in time to the first alien invasion, so they can prevent the harvest of the Earth from ever coming true.
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: Shotguns definitely do a number on the giant alien insectoid invaders.
  • Stripperiffic: Daisy's revealing outfit, which looks like it came straight out of Métal Hurlant. However, since she's Mission Control for most of the game it's not on display that much.
  • Super Drowning Skills:
    • Justified in game. Adam can swim but doing so drains his health very quickly, as the armor he's wearing is too heavy to swim for long periods of time.
    • Also applies to the Alpha tank in level 5, which will get stuck in what is most likely acid and take damage until it explodes... even though it's a hovercraft.
  • Teleportation: The Alien Bugs always beam in to an unexplored location in a green flash of light.
  • Time Machine: The Alpha 1.
  • To Serve Man: The aliens require human tissue to fuel their invasion force.
  • Transformation Horror: In the Siberia level some poor sap is being mutated into a Giant Spider-man hybrid by the aliens. Adam can even talk to him as he's lying helpless on a table.
  • Unexpected Genre Change: The boss battles and the entire last stage takes place in the Alpha 1 vehicle. You can get out of it during the bosses but doing so is an exercise in futility.
  • Very Definitely Final Dungeon: The Alien Comet.
  • Villains Want Mercy: After Adam's Evil Twin changes back to human once his Final Boss form has been defeated, he tries to convince his brother not to kill him. Adam ignores him.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle: After Adam kicks the Brain in a Jar, destroying it, your twin brother appears and transforms into the True Final Boss.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: The Siberia level.